Measles cases in the US have surged to a 25-year high — and the vast majority involve children who weren’t fully immunized.
As of April 26, at least 704 people have been sickened by the virus this year, the highest number since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-two states have reported cases, and more than a third involve kids under the age of 5. Nearly 70 children have already been hospitalized because of complications related to the virus.
For decades, public health experts have been asking people to vaccinate their kids against measles, a highly contagious childhood illness that can, in rare cases, cause brain swelling, hearing loss, and even death.
For one thing, the vaccine is highly effective, so getting immunized is a really good way to prevent infections.
Even more importantly, the more people who get vaccinated, the more we increase “herd immunity,” or the chances of protecting even those in a community who can’t or shouldn’t be vaccinated (like newborn babies or people with allergies to vaccine ingredients).
But despite that, the number of unvaccinated people in certain pockets of the country has been creeping up, threatening herd immunity. And now measles is suddenly a significant public health problem again.